Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Classics Club: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

(about the Classics Club)

Why I Chose This Classic:
As the origin of the phrase "time machine" and credited as the earliest time travel novel, the Time Machine is a must read for fantasy and sci-fi fans.  It just took me a long time to get around to it. . .  I did read an abridged version as a pre-teen, though, in my defense.

What It Made Me Think:
I thought a lot about how commonplace the idea of time travel seems to me, in 2017, and yet how sensational the idea must have been in 1895.  Many of the ideas were original, or at least appearing in print for the first time, so it must have been astounding to most of the readers.  When able to step back from all my "knowledge" of time travel, and see it as a new thing, I got a real thrill out of Wells' story.

I was quite surprised at how much of the novel was used as a social commentary on socialism, the role of women/men in society, society in general, and industrialization.

I thought a good deal, after finishing the novel, about the direction of the future of humanity.

I think Wells was trying to make a point by the trip further into the future, but I'm not sure I fully grasped what he wanted to say.   I see it as a full circle, creature to man back to creature, but I'm not sure if that is all that was intended.

Why was there a stature of a Sphinx?  Why did Wells think that the symbolism of a Sphinx was so important that it would have survived all those centuries?  From what I read later, Wells even requested that a Sphinx be on the front cover of the first edition.  What riddle did the Time Traveler have to solve other than how to open the panels to retrieve his machine (which he never did)?

What It Made Me Feel:
I was disappointed by how the museum seemed to me to be a deus ex machina for the Time Traveler, and was quite relieved when most of the items gained from there were lost to him.

I was surprised at how sparse the action was.  I felt like there was so much more Wells could have written on the Eloi/Morlock situation.  I couldn't help but wonder what the book would've been like had Verne written it instead, with his magnificent powers of invention.

I also, quite frankly, felt that the Time Traveler should have been just a bit more upset and tried harder to find Weena.  Is that the Victorian view of Civilized Explorer and Noble Savage showing itself?

Notable Passages, Ideas or Themes:
Socialism, as I've mentioned, was a theme that Wells was attempting to portray in a positive light by showing the evil deterioration of industrialization.

Other themes were the innocence of Weena, lost to the violence of the offspring of industrialization, and the fire of civilization that ran out of control and burned the forest.  (I'm not fully certain what Wells meant by that, but it's too obvious to have been unintentional.) 

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